Are Accountable Care Organizations Improving Population Health?

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

What does the phrase ‘improving population health’ really mean? And are ACOs truly designed to improve it?

Researchers from Weill Cornell recently tackled these questions in a thought provoking piece featured this week, questions that need to be addressed in order to formulate effective healthcare and social service policy.

At issue is the widespread use of the phrase population health tied to ACOs, and whether ACOs actually have the incentives or the tools to improve the health of the entire community in which they are located, or whether they are just responsible for improving medical care for their own population of patients.

To read more on this discussion, click here.

In another story about improving healthcare, notably the issues of access, quality and cost, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has launched a $3 million initiative with the AARP to implement the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) evidence-based recommendations on the future of nursing. The foundation will provide states with the support they need to build a more highly educated, diverse nursing workforce that will improve health outcomes for patients, families and communities.

Another effort to decrease healthcare costs is presented in a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS Caremark, published in the American Journal of Medicine. Patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) who are medication adherent can save the healthcare system up to $868 per patient per year. Researchers found a consistent trend toward improvement in coronary artery-related events, mortality, readmissions, and costs among those patients who most adhered to their medication regimens.

In other more cost-related news, a collaborative of 333 hospitals intent on improving costs and care have saved $9.1 billion and 92,000 deaths since 2008 by replicating the performances of top performing hospitals, according to Premier Healthcare Alliance’s QUEST™ collaborative.

If hospitals nationwide followed QUEST’s™ lead, they could save 950,000 lives and approximately $93 billion over the next five years, officials said.

And don’t forget to take our new survey, Managing Care Transitions in 2013. Proper management of a transition in care — the process by which an individual’s care moves from one health setting to another, such as from hospital or ER to home, or from SNF to hospital — has the potential to dramatically hasten that person’s return to optimal health, as well as reduce the likelihood of a return ER visit or readmission. The quality of transitional care is also shaping up to be a critical factor in value-based reimbursement, as federal and private payors ask patients to rate the quality of the transitional care they receive.

Please share your organization’s efforts to improve care transitions by completing HIN’s third qualitative survey on this topic by Friday, April 12, and we’ll send you a free executive summary of the compiled results.

These stories and more in this week’s issue of the Healthcare Business Weekly Update.

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